Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Spirit Tracks Haters Beware

Don't you just love Spirit Tracks? I certainly do, because there hasn't been so many dislike among the Zelda community for a Zelda game since The Wind Waker. Back then I was 16 years old and I was one of the haters myself. I didn't touch the game nor the GameCube until I played the demo (on the Collector's Edition) in the age of 19. My time of being an ignorant idiot instantly ended there. However, now with Spirit Tracks it's actually very amusing and entertaining to watch the Zelda community from a different perspective. Right now there are three main arguments against Spirit Tracks floating around Zelda sites and communities. But none of them actually makes sense and all of them actually mean something entirely different in reality, something the haters don't want or fail to say. So, let me list, disprove and translate those arguments.

Argument 1:
A train doesn't fit into the universe of Zelda

Actually the long version goes more like this: "Well, the steam boat in Phantom Hourglass was okay with the game taking place hundreds of years after Ocarina of Time and all. But a train?!!!!!111 WTF?!!!! Nintendo went too far!!! Zelda takes place in the middle ages and there were clearly no trains in the middle ages!! It totally ruins Zelda!!!!!!"

There's clearly a lot of contradiction here. First of all, Zelda doesn't take place in the middle ages. It doesn't take place in any known time era, but in a fantasy world. A fantasy world does have fantasy elements. It's starts with monsters and dragons and it ends with technology like airships or robots. Just take a look at all the Square Enix games. Like Terranigma, where you spent a good portion in medieval environments and before you know it you end up in the computer age. Nintendo never has gone that far, but Zelda is still a fantasy game and different rules apply here. That's the case since the very first Zelda game, where we got bombs, while Link still fights with sword and a bow. It doesn't make sense, but it's fun. And over the time we got telephones, technicolor photo cameras, homing bombs, giant robots, floating cities in the sky and a steam boat. And the train does blend in perfectly. I mean, Nintendo really tries to make it look very rustic, it looks like it's almost entirely made of wood.

But the steam boat in Phantom Hourglass is the most contradicting thing here. A steam train is basically the same technology just used on the land. And Spirit Tracks takes place 100 years after Phantom Hourglass, so you could even say, that's not much progress for such a long time. But still there are Zelda fans, who got a problem with the steam train, while they clearly had no problem with the steam boat. The steam boat was okay, because it was more comfortable, faster and action-oriented than having a sail boat again. The steam train is not, because it looks childish and stupid. That's the whole problem behind it for those people. I don't actually believe, people do have a problem with the train fitting into the fantasy realm of Zelda, because there clearly is none. Their major problem is, that the train is not cool and mature. But of course their favorite game series has to be cool and mature or otherwise they don't feel like they are cool and mature. It's The Wind Waker all over again. And this is how the first argument can be translated.

Funny enough, you could come up with serious arguments, why a train isn't a good idea, but I don't see that very often. You could complain, that the train makes the game much more linear and takes away the feeling ot freedom and free exploration. In Twilight Princess you literally went on rails through the game and now in Spirit Tracks you have some in the game for real. It may look like a joke to everyone, who wants Zelda to be more non-linear again, including myself. But I personally don't worry too much about that right now. Because it's a very obvious problem, a problem, where Nintendo needs to take countermeasures, when they put such an idea in the game. And the NDS Zelda team already has proven to me, that they know how to make a Zelda game very non-linear in Phantom Hourglass, where you could play all the last three dungeons in any possible order. There's still much room for improvement, especially in the dungeons, but I can see Nintendo addressing the problem by saying "when we have a game on rails, we should try to make the experience as non-linear as possible". The whole railroad system will probably be pretty complex and the player will have a lot of choices where to go first. If not, I certainly will complain. But now it's still to early to judge the system.

You could also complain, that the areas in the game will end up being just like islands in the water. But with grassy fields instead of water. However, I'm still not worried too much, because that's a very obvious problem as well. If you look at the Japanese title of the game on Wikipedia, it's "Train Whistle of the Earth". So, the whistle, which you use to call your Phantom buddy, will be important. Probably with it you can also call your train like your horse Epona in earlier games. Which means you're not bound to a single train station and can go from one area of the game to the next by foot. Which means the world design doesn't work like in Phantom Hourglass. Again, if I'm wrong, and the areas will be just end up as islands in the grassy fields, I will certainly complain. But not now.

So, if you want to say something against the train, you can say a lot of things, but stop riding on the statement, it doesn't fit in the world of Zelda.

Argument 2:
Nintendo is just recycling Phantom Hourglass

"Look, look!! It has the exact same graphics and controls!! Nintendo has become real lazy lately!!! I'm not going to buy the same game again!!"

This is even less sophisticated. It's like they didn't pay attention in the last 25 years of gaming and never played any sequels in their lives. Nintendo does that all the time and not solely Nintendo, the whole game industry does that. Just take at look a the Zelda series. The Oracle games were based on Link's Awakening, they completely reused the engine, all the graphics, sounds, enemies, items and game elements from the game. But no one did have a problem with that. Majora's Mask totally recycled Ocarina of Time. Even all the character models were reused. Four Swords Adventures was built on the style, graphics and sounds of A Link to the Past. And The Minish Cap basically just was a singleplayer version of the first Four Swords game on the GameBoy Advance. Link's Crossbow Training recycled everything from Twilight Princess and turned it into a minigame. It's done all the time, not just in the Zelda series, nearly every good game today gets some kind of direct sequel. Take a look at Super Mario Galaxy 2 or the Metroid Prime Trilogy. It's reasonable and economical, if you're making a sequel to a successful game on the same platform, to reuse it's engine, as well as some of the graphics, sounds and gameplay elements. That way you spare a lot of development costs and time and can focus more on new gameplay aspects. It's exactly what they do in Spirit Tracks, but still some people out of nowhere seem to have a problem with it. The reason for this is very simple. They have a problem with it, because they didn't like Phantom Hourglass. They don't understand, how Nintendo can possibly make a sequel to a game, they didn't like. Because if they didn't like it, the game clearly has to be a failure. But I got news for you, Phantom Hourglass was a big success. Not counting any re-releases it's despite being the youngest already the fourth best selling Zelda game with 4.83 million copies sold world wide. In Nintendo's eyes, it's clearly a hit, and the choice of giving it a proper sequel is more than natural. And those, who liked the style and controls of Phantom Hourglass, personally can't wait to get it.

Argument 3:
Spirit Tracks is going to be a casual game

"Nintendo makes all their games for the casual gamers. Stupid retarded non-gamers!! But what about me?! The hardcore gamer!! Give me HARDCORE games and not casual crap!!! It hatez teh casuals!!! They're destroying gaming!!!"

This is probably the biggest bullcrab of all the arguments against Spirit Tracks. First of all, they clearly don't know, what a so called "casual game" is and where the terms casual and hardcore gamer come from. They didn't exist before the Wii and they were probably made up by Sony's and Microsoft's viral marketers crawling all the internet platforms. It's a label that had to be made up as a last stand against the new generation of gaming. Sony and Microsoft are selling hardcore games to hardcore gamers and Nintendo is selling casual games to stupid, retarded non-gamers or "casual gamers". But in reality Sony and Microsoft are selling games for nerds, who spend most of their free time playing violent games, while Nintendo does now sell games to normal, sociable people, who got a life. But saying that doesn't sell well for Microsoft and Sony and the core game industry, which is why they use "hardcore gamers" and "casual gamers" (the funny is, that years ago no one would have considered playing FPS games with analog sticks to be "hardcore", it was pretty "casual" back then). In marketing those terms don't even exist, there you have core, classic and expanded audience. Nintendo tries to aim for all of them, but with focus on the expanded audience, because they're fighting against a shrinking market. However, I'm drifting away, you can ask Sean Malstrom more about that topic.

And there is no such thing as a "casual game". They don't label games with the genre casual games. Those games are mostly educational games, practice games, sports games or minigame collections. Anything that is somehow connected to the reality and fulfills a proper job. People are playing Train Braining or WiiFit to improve their health and mind. People are playing WiiSports, because it's a very sociable and fun game. No Zelda game can ever be a casual game. Because Zelda games draw the gamer away from reality into a fantasy world. Zelda games are meant to spent hours with. The so called "casual gamer" doesn't want to be drawn away from reality and to spent hours alone with solving puzzles. They don't have the time for that. No matter what, you can't put the label "casual game" on any game of the Zelda series.

So, why are some Zelda fans claiming, that Spirit Tracks will become a casual game? It's simply because the games are getting more and more easier for them. While this still doesn't make Zelda "casual", I totally agree with this statement. But on the other hand it's important, that Nintendo tries to attract some of the expanded audience for their core audience games, because they want to win a larger core audience. And this is only possible with easy access. However, I listed a variety of solutions how to make a Zelda game attractive for both the expanded audience (potential new Zelda gamers) and the core audience (the Zelda fans) in my The Difficulty of Zelda article. Be sure to check it out.

Legend of Neil Season II

...started today. Or yesterday, depends on the time zone. Well, have you ever been annoyed by Zelda fangirls screaming for a Zelda movie? Or by those idiots, who fell for last year's IGN april fool's joke, and who still hope it's real? And do you absolutely dislike the thought of a Zelda movie, may it be a real one or a fan project? Yes? Then Legend of Neil is for you. It's a comedy web series, which is based solely on the original Zelda game. It's about a gas station attendent named Neil, who gets sucked into the game while masturbating to a fairy and choking himself off with the controller cable. Well, you get it, the humor is black, rude and perverted, but the show has some absolutely hilarious moments. I especially enjoyed the dialogues between the Wizzrobe and Ganon in the first season. Or the second season starts for example with Neil noticing the hurtful way, that his crappy shield is way too small. But just watch for yourself.

Official Site
Interview with Zelda Universe

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wuhu Island and the Magic of Free Exploration

One of my favorite modes in Wii Sports Resort is definitely the Island Flyover. Not only because it is a very relaxing mode and the perfect diversion from exhausting gametypes like swordplay. They should have included more like that, Fishing for example would have been a perfect fit for the setting. However, the real reason why I enjoy it so much, is because I am a Zelda fan. And Zelda fans love free exploration and collecting stuff. It's in our nature. And the way, Wuhu Island was designed is really great. Everything flows in naturally and I love, how the different places are connected. Especially the locations around the mountain with the mountain paths and the cave tunnels. Whoever designed the island, did a great job at Nintendo's and should work for the next Zelda game.

No, really, what defined the original The Legend of Zelda game, what made it Zelda in the first place, the original idea the game was built upon, was free, non-linear exploration of a coherent world. As an opposite to the linear level design of Super Mario Bros. You could do most parts of the game in any order. And that's something, that got more and more lost over the times in the Zelda series and found its absolute anti-climate in Twilight Princess, which is the most linear Zelda game up to date. They gave up, what Zelda originally was about, and let the player now go on rails over the world just so they can tell their stupid storyline and show us boring cutscenes. I never played Zelda for the story or the cutscenes, I hate cutscenes, because they take control away from you. A game should always be about control, you should be in control of what to do next and where to go next.

And now look at Wuhu Island. What makes the flyover mode so great is, that you can go anywhere you like. There are no ingame rails forcing you to go to the lighthouse first and then go collecting the i-Points at the castle. Why can't the world of a Zelda game be designed like that? Why do I have to be trapped in a forest and why can't I just go to the mountain and the fire dungeon first? Why is the overworld designed like chambers inside a dungeon with all doors locked except one? Only a few Zelda games after the first managed to give a you a more open, non-linear world design. In A Link to the Past you were able to swap some dungeons. The adult part of Ocarina of Time was mostly non-linear, though not a lot of people noticed this. Did you know, that you can go play the Ice Cavern first? Or the Water Temple before the Fire Temple? Yes, it works, but only a few people really tried it, because the annoying ingame guide wants you to go to the forest first. Which is why it doesn't happen often, that someone accidently plays the dungeons out of order. In the original Zelda game you had absolutely no guide and sometimes it just happened, that you came across a dungeon, whose level was above your head. But this article is not about the annoyance of ingame guides, it's about open world exploration and non-linear game design. The Wind Waker had a very open world, too, but the dungeon order was still linear. Though it would make sense, if you could swap the Wind Temple and the Earth Temple, but I never heard about, that this is actually possible. The second half of Phantom Hourglass was totally non-linear, you could play the last three dungeons in any order, which is the way it should be. But the overall linear design of the dungeons theirselves destroyed a part of this feeling. The other Zelda games offered a mostly linear dungeon order and world exploration. Some games managed to compensate that somehow, like Majora's Mask with its large variety of sidequests or the GameBoy(Color) games with their non-linear dungeon design.

But overall it would be nice to have an overworld again, which is absolutely coherent and which lets you explore itself any way you want. There's no real reason to force you to play the dungeons in a specific order except if you need the item from one dungeon in another. But you don't have to design the dungeons that way. Story is not an excuse for linear game design, Ocarina of Time managed to tell its story with a non-linear dungeon order. What I also liked about Wuhu Island was the large island setting. It makes the world feel even more coherent. There are clear border and there's no spot you can miss. You can go everywhere. The overworld in Twilight Princess is the exact opposite. It shows you many places, where you simply can't go. Like Death Mountain or large parts of the Zora River. Fields and woods in the background. Also, you are not allowed to explore the world freely. You have to go to Kakariko first, all other paths are blocked and it continues that way. This always gives you the feeling of restriction. "You're not allowed to go there." But the overworld in Zelda should give you the feeling of freedom.

So, hopefully the Zelda team working on Zelda Wii right now will be inspired by the design of Wuhu Island. Hopefully one of the paths of Zelda Wii is to remember the roots of the The Legend of Zelda series. Non-Linearity and free exploration.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Zelda Wii: The Sword Spirit of Recalibration

Wii Sports Resort was released today in Europe and I just love that game. It has a great variety of different fun games and it shows, what could be possible in Zelda Wii. The sword combat is very accurate and a lot of fun. The Archery is epic, probably the best sport in the whole package, and I would be very disappointed, if it isn't done that way in Zelda Wii too. Though the way you hold it might be a problem, because you would have to switch Wiimote and Nunchuk ingame. Canoeing is also relevant, if they include canoes like in Twilight Princess, and the Frisbee shows how the Boomerang in Zelda could work. MotionPlus is definitely a great tool to make the next Zelda game an unique experience. However, the MotionPlus needs to be recalibrated from time to time. It's not as troublesome as some so called professional review site editors might want you to think, it only happens once in a while and you just lay down the Wiimote on a flat surface (like a table) for like two seconds, that's it. You can manually recalibrate it during the game by pausing, but most sports use a stance determining mechanism anyway, so there's normally no need to do so.

To come back to Zelda Wii and the mysterious artwork with the Mastersword fairy/spirit, I have a new idea, why Nintendo uses this story concept in the upcoming Wii Zelda game. In my previous article about the Zelda Wii artwork I've dealt with the theory, that it has something to do with first person gameplay, since the development of Zelda Wii probably started around first person gameplay ideas. However, Miyamoto then recently stated, that Zelda Wii is not going to be that different, remember? Which is why I basically backed off from the whole first person thing. A different theory now would be, that the sword spirit idea could have something to do with the recalibration of the Wii MotionPlus. That Nintendo wants to make the recalibration into an ingame gameplay feature. I proceed on the assumption, that the fairy/spirit on the artwork is the Mastersword and that the Mastersword can transform into this living being and back into a sword, so it can communicate with the player. The sword is basically your sidekick this time. Now what if Nintendo wants you to use the recalibration of the MotionPlus as a trigger to call your sidekick? Like an ingame feature. Take off and lay down your sword (your Wiimote), so it can transform into the spirit. While this may have certain important ingame advantages, your Wii uses this time period to quickly recalibrate your MotionPlus. Actually not a bad idea, Nintendo. Not bad at all.

But what speaks against this theory is, that Miyamoto stated, Zelda Wii would only utilize MotionPlus, if MotionPlus is successful. So, why preparing ideas like that, if they still aren't sure, if they're going to use it? And, more importantly, why showing artwork of such ideas? Well, maybe because they liked the idea storywise so much, that they kept it, even if the initial reason, why it was developed, may not be part of the game anymore. This could also apply, if the idea of the Mastersword spirit was created by first person gameplay concepts. Maybe it really was, but now it's used for MotionPlus. And maybe Miyamoto just said funny things, while he knew, that MotionPlus is going to be successful anyway. Even if it's not, Zelda Wii could be a strong draft horse for it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Legend of Zelda 3D

Yay, I found something to talk about, that doesn't have anything to do with Tingle. Well, I like fan games, that try to be different. Which means not the typical "look at my version of Zelda made in RPG maker" thing. Legend of Princess is definitely a very good example for this and my favorite fanmade Zelda game so far. But if you ever wanted to know, how first person perspective in Zelda, which was discussed in the recent past, would work and how the original The Legend of Zelda game from the NES would look like in 3D, then this is for you. So far this game covers the first half of the Eagle dungeon and lets you stab Keese and Stalfos and collect keys. It also is as close to the original game as you can get:

Hahaha, this reminds me on old FPS games on the PC, like Doom. Go here if you want to download the game, test it for yourself and support the project. If you're too lazy to try it out for yourself, you can also watch this very informative video:

-- video removed --

Source: TIGForums - WIP LoZ Fangame

Color Changing Overview Trailer

I apologize for the wave of Tingle news lately, but a Japanese overview trailer for Color Changing: Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love appeared yesterday. The game launches on August 6th in Japan, so expect more to come.

Well, storywise we will get a new Tingle. Much like we get a new Link in every second Zelda game. In Freshly Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland we learned, that a "Tingle" is not a single person, but a state of being. So, like we have different generations of Links and Zeldas, we have different incarnations of Tingles over the ages, too. This one, however, is trapped in this fairy tale book. To escape, he has to dance with the princess. So, that's the final goal. But I would expect some nasty story twists here, much like in the first game.

And it still looks like a Point & Click Adventure. But there are some special action sequences, much like the boss fights in the first game. Those work in a try and error fashion, so you either win or you have to start over. But it looks like, there won't be any regular fighting. The humor is great, like always, I especially liked the last scene in the trailer, it was hilarious.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Color Changing Gameplay Videos

At Gametrailers there is a series of gameplay videos of the new Tingle adventure game Color Changing: Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love available:

Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love videos

It shows how the three companions work. Like I thought, they will replace the bodyguards from Freshly Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland and come in three sizes. A large lion, a medium sized female robot and a small scarecrow. All of them have special abilities to solve different puzzles.

But there's one thing, I've noticed in these videos. It totally looks like a classic Point & Click Adventure game and NOT AT ALL like an Action Adventure, which is how Zelda (and Zelda related games) should look like. I hope, there will be still fighting and dungeons and other classical Zelda elements, which made the first game "enjoyable" to begin with. If I would like to play classic Adventures like Monkey Island, I wouldn't buy Zelda games. I know, this is NOT a Zelda game, please don't kill me. But it's a spin off to the Zelda series and the main reason, why the first game was so interesting for me, was because it shared so many similarities with a Zelda game. It had action-oriented gameplay, the overworld/dungeon world layout, and so on. Just read my review. If this would be missing, then Vanpool is definitely heading into the wrong direction.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Color Changing Box Art & Video

Color Changing: Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love Box Art

From Amazon. This looks even more gay and aweful than the box art of the first game. The biggest challenge you can get with the game is buying it in public. But that's all part of the humor, so everyone who screams "omg this is gay and aweful, my eyes are bleeding", really doesn't get the point of those games nor does have any sense of humor. And trust me, Zelda news boards are swimming in those kind of comments right now. However, the game will be released on August 6th in Japan and I hope, it will find its way to Europe soon after. Probably never in the U.S. though, especially not with that box art.

Also, check out this fancy video. "OMG, my eyes hurt, R.I.P. Nintendo 2009!!!11111" .... Seriously, how can anyone deny the pure awesomeness of Macho Tingle?

And in the Famicon article, which I've posted the last time, there was information about, that Tingle will have three companions. A strong lion, a heartless robot and a small scarecrow. The Tingle of Oz, huh? I guess, those will be the replacements of the bodyguards from Freshly Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland and they will all have special abilities depending on their size.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Game & Watch on DSiWare

I was talking about a possible "Virtual Handheld" a lot and even gave up hope after a while, so this is really exciting news. Game & Watch games are going to be released on the DSiWare system. They will cost 200 points and nine games were already announced (in brackets the Game & Watch series and the release date):

  • Ball (Silver, July 15th)
  • Flagman (Silver, July 15th)
  • Judge (Silver, July 15th)
  • Vermin (Silver, July 15th)
  • Chef (Wide Screen, July 29th)
  • Donkey Kong Jr. (New Wide Screen, August)
  • Helmet (Gold, July 29th)
  • Manhole (Gold, August)
  • Mario's Cement Factory (New Wide Screen, August)

How is this interesting for Zelda fans? Because there was Game & Watch Zelda game:

It was part of the multi-screen series and orientates itself at Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. You're fighting from a side perspective against Moblins and Stalfos in eight dungeons on the lower screen and a dragon boss monster on the upper screen, when you reach the final room of a dungeon. You can beat the boss using a tomahawk item (which never appeared in the main series) and free Princess Zelda as a soon as you collect all eight Triforce shards. Storywise it's assumed to take place between both NES games.

And probably Game&Watch games on the DSiWare service are not the end. Makes sense to start with Game&Watch, since the muti-screen Game&Watch games (like Zelda) were an inspiration for the DS and the best possible way to market those games is releasing them now without any competition from GameBoy games. Nintendo fans waited quite a while for downloadable classic games on the DSi, so the Game&Watch right now is quite an attraction. But I assume, GameBoy(Color) games for 500 points will follow. And at some point maybe even GameBoy Advance games for 800 points, since the DSi doesn't have a GBA slot anymore. And there's a lot of Zelda stuff on those systems, just check my previous article:

The Future of Zelda: Virtual Handheld

So far I've been skeptical about a Virtual Handheld on the DSi, because of all the costs from legal issues and ESRB rating, which the Virtual Console on the Wii is facing and which don't always justify the low profits from the games. But with the Game&Watch games on the DSi in the picture, everything changes. Those games can't be emulated, they have to be remade. Some of those already have been remade in the Game&Watch collection series, but still those games are made with the highest expense of all downloadable re-releases so far and they are sold at the lowest possible price of two dollars. If this is possible for Nintendo, GameBoy games shouldn't be a problem at all. And maybe even some nice additions like the emulation of the multiplayer.

Nintendo of Japan

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Broken Link

This is probably one of the most amazing Zelda artworks, I've ever seen. The mood of the picture, the background, the drawings, it's stunning. It gets even better, David Cousens, the artist, recently has written a tutorial how to draw such an amazing piece of art. But you need a tablet PC, as well as some good drawing and photoshop skills to get this done:

Advanced Tutorial: Creating a 'Broken Link'

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cane of Somaria (or Fire Rod) in The Minish Cap

Okay, this is no news at all, but still an interesting story. In the European version of The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap the description text of the Ice Wizzrobe figurine says:

"They're weak against fire, so hit them with your Fire Rod!"

Cool... wait, WHAT?! What Fire Rod? Since I played the European version, you can imagine, that I was pretty confused back then when the game was released, because there is no Fire Rod in the final game. The text was even corrected in the US version, which came out later than the European version (doesn't happen often). However, ZeldaLover122 has a video at Youtube showing us some hacked weapons including the beta Fire Rod:

It creates bugged square sprites. Which looks like it was obviously not supposed to be a simple Fire Rod, but a Cane of Somaria! Like the version in Four Swords Adventures, that was an upgrade for the Fire Rod.

The Cane of Somaria made its first appearence in A Link to the Past, where you could create blocks, that can be picked up and thrown, and sometimes platforms with it. It also shot four magic projectiles in each direction, when you detonated the blocks by striking the rod again. The same version was also used in the BS Zelda Ancient Stone Tablets. The next game using the Cane of Somaria was Oracle of Ages, but here you could only create blocks and not use it as a weapon. The most powerful version of this item, however, was introduced in Four Swords Adventures and was an upgrade for the normal Fire Rod. You were able to use it as a flame thrower by holding the button, but you could also create blocks and platforms and the blocks would send fireballs in all four directions, as soon as the player lets them disappear. So far this was the last time, a Zelda fan got to use this item.

So, it's sad, that the Cane of Somaria didn't make it into the final version of The Minish Cap. Definitely would have been a great addition to the overall very nice collection of items in this game. But a combination of the Fire Rod and the Cane of Somaria could also be an interesting choice for the remaining items in Spirit Tracks.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Items in Spirit Tracks

One major points of interest in a new Zelda game for me is the question, what items there are. And with items I don't to refer to sword, shield and the other typical equipment, I refer to the items, you can assign to a button to use them with the same button (or in case of the Nintendo DS the touchscreen). Let's call those "action items" for now. However, I was very disappointed, when Phantom Hourglass only got nine spots in the item menu, seven for action items and two more for potions. I see, that the NDS Zelda team wanted to keep Phantom Hourglass close to original The Legend of Zelda, when it comes to certain elements like the items (or the repetitive music). The Legend of Zelda on the NES only got eight action items, one of them being a potion, so you can see where the number came from. And like The Legend of Zelda on the NES Phantom Hourglass only has full Heart Containers to collect instead of heart pieces, which wasn't a bad thing, because that way there was more space for other collectable items like the Spirit Gems or the ship parts. You can honor the attempt of being close to the first Zelda game, but you also can complain about the low number of action items. I certainly complain. And I hoped, that Spirit Tracks won't follow this trend of only having seven items, but my hopes were smashed by this video of the E3 demo:

It shows the nice gameplay with the Phantom, but look at the menu at 4:51. The item menu has nine slots again, two for potions, seven for action items. Arrgh... Those seven items better be good. So, let's make a list of what items are currently known:

The Boomerang
It's back. And it works exactly like in Phantom Hourglass, no enhancements or alike. But since this was one of the most entertaining items in the game, I don't complain.

The Whirlwind
It's a blowgun, that shoots whirlwinds. Basically this is nothing new, we got something similar in Oracle of Ages & Seasons with the Gale Seeds combined with the Seed Shooter or the Slingshot. And we got the Deku Leaf in The Wind Waker, the Gust Jar in The Minish Cap and the Gale Boomerang in Twilight Princess, which all dealt with wind power. However, this item emphasizes the use of the Nintendo DS microphone, since you can shoot whirlwinds by blowing into the microphone. In the above video it also looks like you can simply shoot whirlwinds by tapping, so I assume, that you can shoot larger whirlwinds with the microphone or something. Because otherwise why should you want to blow into the mic? You could let Link puff in Phantom Hourglass by blowing into the microphone to blow out candles or to power those windmills, so the Whirlwind is basically the amplifier of that feature. Next to the obvious stuff like powering windmills or getting keys, you can use the Whirlwind to blow enemies around and clear poison gas areas.

The Whip
Seriously, the whip definitely looks cool. It will probably replace the Grappling Hook from the previous game, since you can use it to swing yourself across gaps or similar traps. But it also can be used as a weapon, which is good, because using only a sword all the time can become quite boring. And it doesn't seem to be as overpowered as the Hammer in Phantom Hourglass. Annnddd...

So, there are still four spots left. But there is a high chance, that some more classic items from Phantom Hourglass will return. Probably the Bombs, Bow & Arrow and the Shovel. However, I would like to see some new versions of these items. For example instead of a bow they could add a crossbow. Wouldn't be the first Zelda related game with a crossbow. Or something, that works as a shovel, but can do more, like the Mole Mitts in The Minish Cap. For example a pick axe. You could use it to "shovel" the ground, to clear a mine and to attack enemies. Multiple uses for one item, that's what we want to get, if there are only seven. What I would also like to see is a ball & chain, because swinging it with the Stylus could be fun.

The Phantom
Well, this is of course not one of the "action items", but still very cool and important. Controlling a Phantom in dungeons will be second main gameplay element in Spirit Tracks next to riding a train. The idea itself isn't new however, you could already control Phantoms in the multiplayer mode of Phantom Hourglass and you got dungeon companions in The Wind Waker. But it's common, that the main gameplay elements of a Zelda game are just advanced versions of smaller features in previous games. Like the masks in Majora's Mask, those were already featured in Ocarina of Time. Or the Minish Cap in the game with the same name was based on the Gnat Hat in Four Swords.

However, I believe, the idea of controlling a Phantom has a lot of potential. Especially if you do this in all the dungeons, because this would make the dungeons and their puzzles in Spirit Tracks all very unique. And the Phantom probably can be upgraded. In Phantom Hourglass there were red Swift Phantoms, who could walk much faster, and Gold Phantoms, who could teleport themselves all around the place. I at least expect to get those upgrades for my Phantom later in the game. And maybe some new ideas, like special items just for the Phantom (a ball & chain would be nice).

There's also a conductor's whistle, which is used to call the Phantom and which fits the train theme of the game. Make sure to take a look at the above video, it shows a lot of the Phantom gameplay.

Collectible Items

Next to the "action items" I'm also very interested in collectible items. Like heart pieces, gold skulltales or rings. I love that, no good Zelda game without a good collecting quest. But so far nothing is know about any collectible items in Spirit Tracks, so we can only speculate. Phantom Hourglass did have six additional heart containers, 64 ship parts and 60 Spirit Gems. I guess, Spirit Tracks will probably use heart containers instead of heart pieces too and the train will offer some customization similar to the ship parts in Phantom Hourglass.

My best guess would be, that the wagons theirselves are the "train parts". You probably get different types of wagons and carts for different purposes. For example Link could transport people with a passenger wagon and earn rupees by doing so. Or deliver a freight cart full of Goron bomb flowers to some mine. The cannon is also on a seperate wagon, so you probably have to get this one first. I think, in the end you will have like four or five different types of wagons plus the locomotive and you can unlock different skins for all those.

I will update this post, as soon as we have more information about the items in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Future of Zelda: Difficulty Level

This is literally a difficult topic. The difficulty level of modern Zelda games became quite an issue in the last few years. Zelda games are not challenging for Zelda fans and veterans anymore, they even become easier to attract a new audience. I'm not starting a "OMG, Zelda becomes teh casual" post here, most people who say something like this, don't even know that the whole branding of "casual" and "hardcore gamers" are just buzz words of angry fanboys and viral marketers. It's a joke. In marketing you have the three terms "core audience", "classic audience" and "expanded audience". Nintendo's goal never was to make "stupid casual games" for "stupid casual gamers", their ultimate goal was to defy the shrinking of the video game market by making gaming exciting again and expanding their audience that way. Wii Sports and Wii Fit were only the first step, with so called bridge games like Mario Kart Wii, that the expanded audience and core audience could enjoy alike, they tried to lure both audiences in opposite directions, thus letting core gamers have fun with games like Wii Sports and new gamers fun with games like Mario or Zelda. When Miyamoto compares the controls of the new Wii Zelda game with Wii Sports Resort, he does that for a very good reason. And it's the right thing to do, in times of the recession it is very important to find new customers. Which is why I support that Zelda should be as open as possible for possible new gamers. If Link's Awakening wouldn't have been so beginner friendly, I myself probably would have never touched any Zelda games as a kid.

The good thing on Nintendo Wii and DS is, that the natural controlling interface makes the games already easier and more interesting. This is already a big step for both sides. If playing Zelda itself gets easier, then the content can get harder again. But still Phantom Hourglass got some of the easiest dungeons in the entire series. The problem is, if you want to attract a larger audience for a game, you don't want to lose the original core audience. You can't take sells from the core audience as granted and you can't risk to lose this audience, because it became bored. A Zelda fan needs to be challenged in a new Zelda game. But how can you make this possible, when you don't want to make the game for new players too hard? If an Ocean King Temple can scare Zelda fans off, how should new gamers react to it? (The whole difficulty level of Phantom Hourglass is very contradicting.) Actually the concept for this is very simple. Screw with the Zelda fan's mind. A Zelda fan is used to certain patterns of puzzles. Shoot an arrow in the eye here, move a block there, use the dungeon item to attack the boss - it gets repetitive and boring. Most Zelda fans know the solutions to half of the puzzles in a new Zelda game before they even played it. Just make new kinds of puzzles and even puzzles, that go AGAINST the usual thinking of a Zelda fan. That way you can even create puzzles, that can be hard for the longtime Zelda fan and easy for the new gamer. Link's Awakening has some perfect examples for how this works. For example the puzzle, where you have a locked door and the only way to open it is smashing a pot against it. That's not very usual in Zelda and I've seen a lot of Zelda fans become desperate, because they couldn't come up with the solution, while a new gamer usually experiments more and finds the solution very fast.

Boss enemies are a very similar case. They always have an uberobvious weak point and you always just have to somehow use the dungeon item to expose it. Stop this pattern! Stop it right now! A boss can be hard as pain, as long as you don't know what to do, and then can become easy, as soon as you figured the way out. Gleeock in Phantom Hourglass is the only boss in any of the newer Zelda games I found to be good, because even if you knew, that you were supposed to use the Grappling Hook, it wasn't so obvious how to use it at first.

Normal enemies on the other hand are a different case, that can't be solved with the puzzle scheme. Which is why you often hear Zelda fans in Zelda forums talk about a difficulty level system and how it is a necessity and the only way to solve the difficulty issues. But how should it work? Like in Metroid? With just more enemies, who deal 5 hearts damage instead of a half? This is absolutely not a solution, because difficulty in Zelda consists in a lot of things. Enemies, damage, puzzles, level of non-linearity, how well items are hidden, depth of sidequests, etc. There are so many factors one Nintendo has to take into consideration. For example I personally don't care much about the enemies in a Zelda game, I love hitting them with a sword or other weapons, but that's it. But what's important for me are for example nice collectable item quests, where I really have to look for the items to get them all. If I get 60 lousy Poe Souls, that can be located from 100 miles distance, I'm not satisfied with the difficulty of the game.

Also non-linearity is very, very important for me. Freedom and exploration, the choice where to go next. This makes the games alone harder, even if it isn't. It's way more fun and challenging to figure out for yourself, what to do next. A dungeon automatically gets harder, if I have to choose my path through it and if I can hit dead ends. Non-linearity is what defined the very first Zelda game in the first place. A Twilight Princess was about Link transforming into a wolf, while a The Legend of Zelda was about non-linear gameplay. Non-linearity remained to be an important factor for the Zelda games, even though it never reached the level of the original game, until the generation of The Minish Cap and Twilight Princess, where the games started to become very linear. Twilight Princess was a total disaster in my opinion just because it was so linear. That was my major complain. Phantom Hourglass did provide a non-linear dungeon order in the second half of the game, which was absolutely awesome, but still the dungeons theirselves remained to be very linear and easy, which then was just a big letdown again. And non-linearity is nothing a new gamer can't handle, because you always find a way and it's more fun figuring things out by yourself anyway. And it makes the game much more interesting and sometimes even harder for Zelda veterans. Non-linearity is very important, but was underestimated by Nintendo in the past few years. I hope, Miyamoto wakes up some morning and remembers, why he made the original The Legend of Zelda in the first place and upends the tea table by saying "make Zelda non-linear again".

I lied, when I said that a difficulty level system is not a solution. While simple difficulty levels like in Metroid definitely won't work, a complex difficulty level system, that takes all factors into the equation does. And as it happens, Zelda games used to have this kind of thing. The so called "2nd Quest". Sadly only three Zelda games so far got a real 2nd Quest. The original one, which is the most common example, Ocarina of Time with Master Quest and the first Four Swords game that came with three difficulty levels (the silver, gold and Hero's keys). You may also want to count the first BS Zelda, but its 2nd Quest wasn't really that much harder. Also, Zelda II - The Adventure of Link, the Oracle games and The Wind Waker all featured a 2nd Quest, but those didn't increase the difficulty, no, they even made the games easier by giving you some advantages (like keeping your experience level, rings or Minintendo figures). So, the 2nd Quest in the first Zelda game probably would be the best example, I find it also to be the most challenging experience in the entire Zelda series, even harder than Zelda II to a certain extend. It got nine new totally insane dungeons and everything was so well hidden on the overworld, some people never even found all of those dungeons. Of course this is a very extreme example, a good example of how to rearrange the game's dungeons was Master Quest. Adding some tough enemies to earlier dungeons and creating some crazy puzzles, that really screw with you, if you try to solve them the same way as in the original version. Master Quest was awesome, but it only rearranged the dungeons, you should change the overworld as well. Especially the locations of the collectable items, hide those skulltulas and pieces of heart in very nasty to find places. Add some different enemies to the overworld areas and voila - there you have your good 2nd Quest, that makes Zelda fans happy.

If I had my way, I would have Nintendo add a 2nd Quest to every new Zelda game. No, they should design a new Zelda game with a 2nd Quest in mind from the ground up, so they can easily include the required changes. But there's the problem, more development time and resources, higher costs... There's a reason, why only three Zelda games so far got a real 2nd Quest.

The last and probably newest way of adjusting the difficulty of a Zelda game lies in Miyamoto's patent about demo playing, that was discussed recently a lot and will be first used in a game in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This new system let's the game play itself for you, in case the jumping sequence, the puzzle or the boss is too hard for you. You probably have noticed, that Nintendo cares about players, who got frustrated by a game and just stopped playing it. The recent solution was making games easier alltogether, but that wasn't very satisfying for the core audience, who wants challenges. The demo play mode, which is completely optional, helps both sides. Core gamers can play without any help systems, while Nintendo can add some very tough puzzles or bosses for them. A new gamer now can play with the help system, so when he just can't solve the puzzle or beat the boss, he activates the demo play, watches and then returns to the game, as soon as he thinks he is ready to take over again. Of course you have to somehow seperate both ways of playing. An expierenced core gamer should be rewarded by marking any save games, that were completed without the help system. Or even unlock some extras, if you didn't use any demo play. Because otherwise everyone could simply "beat" the game, which the typical core audience wouldn't like, because they associate beating a game with an achievement in their life.

However, new kinds of puzzles, non-linearity, 2nd Quests, demo play... there are many solutions how to make Zelda challenging again without scaring away the expanded audience. Nintendo is sure aware of the difficulty issue and we will see, which solutions they will choose to solve it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Changing Course: Hyrule Blog

It's time for a change. What I was doing here for a year now was pretty much just writing about everything what popped into my mind. The blog focused on a series of different video games, TV shows and other media franchises without any real connection between them besides the fact, that I liked them all. It was a mess. When I look at some of my favorite blogs out in the net, they have one thing in common. They are written by experts talking about their specific field of expertise. And they all deliver something special, you don't get anywhere else in the internet. Which is why I wanted to finally set a focus for this blog: The Legend of Zelda.

I'm a Zelda fan since 1997, I played all the official Zelda games up and down including wildly unknown games like the BS Zeldas or Tingle's Rupeeland. And I find the whole franchise to be very exciting and fascinating, I could talk always about Zelda. Additionally Zelda as a blog topic has the advantage, that you can also talk about other Nintendo stuff like Metroid, Smash Bros, which are somehow related to Zelda, or about Nintendo in general. It won't feel like it's off course and it still will be interesting for a lot of Zelda fans. Also, all the readers, who contacted me, where primarily interested in the Zelda posts and maybe Metroid, but nothing else. So, I think this is the right choice and I have already changed the blog to fit this direction.

What's gone?

  • Silly game experiences not related to Zelda. Especially if I'm 404. I'm a Mario Kart n00b, so who cares what I have to say about Mario Kart games? Plus everyone knows Mario Kart, so why should you want to read any reviews about them on this blog? And who cares about how much I have unlocked in Super Smash Bros Brawl? I don't even care about that too much myself anymore. So, good riddance.
  • Everything related to non-gaming media. This was mostly stuff about TV shows. LOST, Firefly, Prison Break, Terminator. It was hard to say goodbye to all that, but except for LOST all those shows are cancelled anyway.

What remained?

  • Everything Zelda. News, predictions, analysis, opinions. Like I said, the blog focuses now on Zelda, so of course this stays.
  • Game franchises close to Zelda, these being Metroid and Super Smash Bros. I like Metroid a lot and it shares many similarities with Zelda, since both are Action Adventures, and it's a popular Nintendo franchise, so mentioning it here and there won't hurt. Super Smash Bros on the other hand features a lot of cameo appearences of Zelda, so this is still welcome.
  • Custom content. Like my SSB Brawl stages or Unreal Tournament maps. I planned to use this blog as a platform for my custom content from the beginning and I will continue doing so.
  • Everything about Unreal. For now.
  • Detailed reviews of wildly unkown games, that Zelda fans could like. Games like Mystic Quest or Terranigma. Since those Action RPGs have a lot in common with Zelda, Zelda fans could find those interesting and therefore those articles can stay. Well, the Turok: Rage Wars review is still there too, but consider this as a fun entry.

Why is Unreal still here?

That's a good question. Primarily because I want to have a platform to show off my Unreal maps and right now it doesn't justify it's own page. Also, I like to use Unreal as an example for a non-Nintendo video game franchise in my posts, because it's my favorite non-Nintendo video game franchise. It doesn't mean however, that there will be a lot of Unreal posts on this blog, don't worry.

What's new?

  • The "It's a secret to everybody" shoutbox. Since the LOST countdown timer is now gone and the upper right corner did look very empty, I thought I should add something Zelda there. I used the free code from Zeldapower.com, thanks for their work.
  • More labels and categories. Since it's all about Zelda now it doesn't make sense to have just a "The Legend of Zelda" category. It gets split up, for example my The Future of Zelda articles, Spirit Tracks and Tingle all got their own categories. And I will keep labelling posts, so it's easier to find them.

But "Torvus Blog" doesn't really sound like Zelda!

That's because it sounds like Metroid. I will think about a new name, any advices or ideas are very welcome.

Update: I chose to name this blog "Hyrule Blog" from now on. Since my nickname contains "Tourist" it makes sense to name the blog after the location I'm visiting in my posts, hence Hyrule. It's not very creative, but at least it's recognizeable and easy to remember. Also, I couldn't find any blogs called "Hyrule Blog", which is a good thing. So, welcome to Hyrule Blog.

In the end I can just say, that I am very comfortable with this change of course and I hope, that I can deliver one or two interesting reads for every Zelda (and Nintendo) fan.

Zelda Wii not radically different?

Miyamoto said to the latest issue of the Nintendo Power magazine about Zelda Wii in comparison to other Zelda games:

I don't think it's going to be that radically different.

People like to take Miyamoto's quotes for gold and recite them over and over again. Like the quote, that Twilight Princess was going to be the last Zelda game of its kind. A lot of people now expected a huge revolution in the Zelda series, totally ignoring Phantom Hourglass, which came after Twilight Princess, and the thought, that his quote probably referred to the controls, since Nintendo was all about advancing controls back in these days and is still today with MotionPlus. Now you will probably see the above quote a lot in the near future and you will see Zelda fans in fear of getting a second Twilight Princess. But what does "not that radically" mean here? It says, that Zelda Wii is going to change, but not in a way, where it breaks the Zelda formula and you won't recognize it as a Zelda game at first glance.

However, it probably means that first person gameplay is out of the equation. It was discussed a lot and Nintendo definitely has tried it out. There was a first person demo of Twilight Princess at the GDC 2007 and Link's Crossbow Training was supposed to be a bridge game in Japan for more first person action. But probably Nintendo screwed the idea, because a first person Zelda doesn't work too well, maybe because there's a lot of action, that requires a 3rd person perspective like horse riding. And "not that radically" of course means, that Link will not turn into a girl and that the game doesn't take place in the year 2342 on a distant planet, but you could tell this already from the artwork:

So far this quote doesn't really give anything away, except maybe that you don't have to become friends with first person gameplay.

But what I still consider to be very important and the key of the game is MotionPlus. I would be very disappointed, if they won't use MotionPlus or just make it an extra feature. This Zelda game should be built from the ground up with MotionPlus in Nintendo's mind. Take Wii Sports Resort with its sword combat, archery and canoeing. That's the least I would expect from Zelda Wii and you can do so much more. Zelda is a game, that wants to drag the player into its world. We already have nice graphics and atmosphere, now its time to step the controller interface up. The Wiimote should become your sword. Twilight Princess failed doing so, because it was developed for the GameCube without motion controls in mind and the Wii controls of the port were too gimmicky. Of course that's not all what was wrong with Twilight Princess and they have to address a lot of things, but none of them would fall into the "radically different" category right now.

Right now, I expect Zelda Wii to utilize MotionPlus and to have a different tone from the other Zelda games.

A source: NintendoLife

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Future of Zelda: Four Swords Wii

Time for some new speculation about the future of our beloved video game franchise The Legend of Zelda. This will come in two parts, the second dealing with difficulty issues of a modern Zelda game.

If you've read my previous articles, you know, that I've discussed the possibility of a WiiWare Zelda game. But the more I speculated about this topic, the less I thought it will become a reality. WiiWare is a platform for new developers to set foot on the market and for Nintendo to perform market tests. It's not a platform for new 2D Mario and Zelda games, though it would be cool. And now New Super Mario Bros. Wii came into the picture. The first real console 2D Mario game since the Super Nintendo days, not as a WiiWare game, but as a full retail game. And this time with focus on local multiplayer. I predict this is going to be a huge hit, it probably will sell out both Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2 together. I even probably will get a copy myself, since the Wii became THE platform for local multiplayer for me and this looks really fun.

So, why not try this with Zelda, too? Both Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures tried to create a Zelda multiplayer experience, but both were ahead of their time and suffered from a heavy connectivity problem. How many Zelda gamers out there weren't able to play Four Swords, because they couldn't find another player? How many people, who owned Four Swords Adventures, thought that a GameBoy Advance and a connection cable for every player isn't effortable and then just played the game alone? If you want to label any Zelda game as failures, it would be those two. Four Swords Adventures is the only Zelda game, that couldn't sell over one million copies. Even Link's Crossbow Training managed to sell 2.75 million copies and funnily enough still scores higher than Four Swords on the Game Boy Advance, though this one was bundled with A LINK TO THE PAST! This could mean, that Nintendo probably will give up on the Four Swords idea completely and continues to focus on small multiplayer modes as extras for the NDS Zelda games, but it definitely means, that there was something wrong with Four Swords. Well, what's wrong with a game, that heavily focuses on local multiplayer, while it's very hard to set up a local multiplayer session for it? Hmmm...

On the Wii and the DS things are different. I easily can play Phantom Hourglass online and you sure can play online on the Wii, too. But of course online only isn't a satisfying solution, the real fun always lies in local multiplayer. It goes nothing over playing with your buddies, drinking a beer while doing so and laughing a lot. You don't get this experience with online gaming. Online gaming exists, because it was not possible to play with mutliple players on the same PC. But since the start of online gaming it tries to emulate the experience of local multiplayer gaming, may it be through voice chats and even webcams. But still it's not the same thing, why online gaming started to focus on its advantage in the possibility of "massively multiplayer online gaming", which is something, you can't get in local multiplayer. But a MMORPG Zelda game is a definite "meh", though I know fans, who would like this, but ... meh. So, in the end, it would be nice to have a local multiplayer Zelda game that joins the line of excellent local multiplayer Wii games next to Wii Sports (Resort), Super Smash Bros. Brawl, New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Mario Kart Wii.

But how should it work? This is the question. If every player would need a Nintendo DS system again, this game would be as worthless as its predecessor. But every player needs to see, where he/she is going when entering a house or a cave on the screen. Splitscreen maybe? Nah, this sucks, especially if you have a small TV. Or they do it like in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, so when one player enters a house or exits the current screen, he has to wait for the other players to join him (of course he could come back to the screen, so he doesn't get stuck, in case no one wants to join him). But this would limit the freedom in the game a lot. One of the coolest things of the original Four Swords on the GameBoy Advance was the unique mix of cooperation and backstabbing (I'm repeating myself). Unless you had to cooperate to solve a puzzle or to beat an enemy, you pretty much could do whatever you wanted. The player getting the most rupees in a level, could win a "Medal of Courage", which were useful in A Link to the Past, so everyone wanted to win and thus were competing against each other. Every man for himself, while the live together, die alone rule applies. While this concept was great, it was screwed by Nintendo in Four Swords Adventures, but the game didn't came up with any new appealing concepts. Sean Malstrom meant to me on his blog, that he would like to see a Four Swords game more in the style of Gauntlet, where every player would be unique and the game focuses a lot more on endless free roaming. I think, this could work. It doesn't even have to be about the Four Sword, where Link splits in four equal parts, it could be four totally different characters. One could be the fat armored Phantom Knight with the big guns, and one could be a girl primarily using magic weapons and spells. And of course they should still keep the gameplay simple. Definitely 2D gameplay, a 3D multiplayer Zelda game would be a huge disaster. I want to get my friends to play Zelda with me, but if it's going to be too complicated, they will refuse. It has to look simple and fun.

However, it's not my matter of concern here to create game concepts, this is Nintendo's job. And if they want to link to the potential success of New Super Mario Bros. Wii (it will be a hit, trust me), a Zelda multiplayer game might be the chance. The smaller Zelda team, the one who created Four Swords Adventures, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks in the past few years, will be finished with their current project this year. So, they could join the bigger Zelda team to help with Zelda Wii or they could focus on a new multiplayer Zelda concept instead (or something completely different). Since they created Four Swords Adventures and two more multiplayer Zelda modes on the DS, they are the best for this job anyway.